The DNAgents in battle. Artist: Will Meugniot.

DNAGENTS

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Eclipse
Creators: Mark Evanier (writer) and Will Meugniot (artist)
First appeared: 1983
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There are exceptions (e.g., The Punisher), but most superheroes are good guys. Tho a majority since the 1960s haven't been quite as pure as the driven snow, here's a bunch that were as …

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… innocent as newborn babes. Maybe that's because when the series began, they were just out of the vat. This made quite a contrast with the outfit they worked for, which was every bit as ruthless, amoral and unaccountable as the CIA, KGB, Mossad, or any other agency for a large, powerful organization that makes its own rules.

The DNAgents were products of genetic engineering, created (and therefore owned) by Matrix, a huge, multi-national corporation run by billionaire Lucius Krell, whose personal philosophy included the notion that governments had become irrelevant in a world now ruled by his kind. The first use of his company's human-like property was to rescue his daughter from kidnapers. He made them handle it because calling in anyone else, or even publicly admitting she'd been snatched, would risk alerting authorities to the ransom the kidnapers demanded, which included high-tech stuff that he didn't want anyone to know Matrix had stolen.

There were five DNAgents. Surge (whose super power was to generate energy) was the so-called "natural leader" type, but also dangerously hot-headed. Amber (who had lesser energy powers, and could also fly) was naive and overly-trusting. Tank (the super-strong guy practically every superhero team has at least one of) was, like a lot of big, strong guys in fiction, a Joe Palooka type, not quite as dumb or as good-hearted but leaning in that direction. Rainbow (who could project mental images and communicate through telepathy) was named for her long hair, which contained streaks of yellow, red, blue, etc. (a sub-plot involved her decision whether or not to expose her presumably rainbow-colored pubic hair in salacious photos). Sham (who could alter his appearance at will) was slight of build and extremely shy. All were like young children at first and matured as the series progressed, but never did grow up completely. An ongoing sub-plot involved the group's attempts to assert independence from Matrix.

The series was created in conversation between writer Mark Evanier (whose comic book credits include Blackhawk and Mr. Miracle) and artist Will Meugniot (most of whose work had been in animation, such as Jem & the Holograms, but who had gotten into comics a few years earlier with Marvel's Tigra). They brought the series to Eclipse Comics, a 1970s start-up that also published Ms. Tree, Airboy and more. The first issue was dated March, 1983.

In the 13th issue (June, 1984), a sixth near-member of the group was introduced. Snafu (no relation) resulted from a botched attempt to create a new DNAgent. Never fully developed, he later became sort of an alien pet for Sham. The following issue contained an unofficial crossover with DC Comics. The DNAgents fought a group called Project Youngblood, whose members were close analogs of DC's Teen Titans. At the same time, in a story with a very similar plot, the Titans fought the genetically altered Re-Combatants, who bore the same relation to the various DNAgents. Naturally, both groups of guest stars were dead in the end.

A more durable superhero supporting character was Crossfire, who carried on a romance with Rainbow. He later had his own comic, which Evanier did in collaboration with Dan Spiegle (Space Family Robinson).

After 24 issues, oddities of the comic book Direct Market dictated a roll-back of the odometer, so the title could have the competitive advantage of another "first issue". The excuse was a change in the production process, where cheaper printing was traded for a lower cover price. The New DNAgents replaced the old between July and October, 1985. It lasted 17 issues, ending in March, 1987. There was also a four-issue mini-series starring Surge in 1984-85, and a 3-D special in 1986. Evanier wrote them all, but Meugniot was with the title only for the first 14 issues.

The DNAgents were brought back in a one-shot, which they shared with Crossfire, published in 1994 by Antarctic Press (Ninja High School). A trade paperback, published in 2004 by About Comics (The Liberty Project, It's Only a Game), reprinted the first several issues. No word yet on an actual revival of the characters, tho there's a vocal contingent of fans clamoring for one.

— DDM

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Text ©2005-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Mark Evanier and Will Meugniot.